January 2013 has finally arrived and all of the holiday celebration is well behind us. For me, the holiday went much too quickly. If you feel like me, Christmas slipped through your fingers and New Years is nothing but a distant memory. The new year has begun and hope for a brighter, better future is alive for some. But what about those who are extremely depressed today and looking for the next big celebration to reduce the depression? What about the person who awoke today feeling negative about their future? Why do we even feel this way year after year?
There are a few explanations that I have developed over time for feelings of depression following the holiday season:
1.) Commercialism: Christmas and New Years Eve/Day is always best celebrated when we can keep things in perspective. Many people fall into the trap of being mesmerized by Christmas music, holiday trimmings, decorations, food, family, and fun. This is why many end up in debt following the holiday season. Everything hinges on one day, December 25th and for others, January 1st. When we don’t keep things in perspective, our expectations can be too high, leading us into a depression when it’s all over.
2.) Distraction: Most people use the holiday season to replace negative emotions, people, and things in their lives. Christmas is quite distracting, especially the commercialized holiday spirit. We begin to focus less on responsibilities or what life will be like after the holiday. The distraction prevents us from feeling reality, which is what some people strive to attain. Drinking, partying, fun, music, and other types of behaviors (sometimes risky behaviors) become the norm. It is never good to replace your reality with the temporary things associated with the holiday season. We want to strive for balance so that when the holidays are over, we won’t feel so depressed.
3.) Compensation: Many people use the holiday to compensate for a lack of moral standards, limits, prestige, or values. Christmas, because it is associated with positive things such as family, cohesiveness, and the birth of Jesus Christ for Christians, pushes some people into desiring a moral or spiritual experience. Some people use the celebration of Christmas to cover up one’s own negative behaviors. When it is over, the cover is pulled off and its time to face those things that were hidden during the holiday season. Some examples include: marital affairs, alcoholism, drug abuse, or family problems. As a result, some people end up divorcing right after Christmas or New Years Day. For others, they become depressed because their “temporary meaning” is gone.
4.) Misplaced significance: If the central focus of the holiday is on giving to others, enjoying family, love, peace, and learning through introspection, depression may not be as bad. If you spend the days from Thanksgiving leading up to Christmas fantasizing and having too high expectations, it can really be a let down when you realize that those fantasies were simply fantasied without significance. Again, balance is key.
As time progresses and you find yourself getting back into your work and family life, you will find that those feelings of depression will subside. For most people, they don’t last very long. For those who experience symptoms of depression long into March or April, should consider professional attention.
The winter months and the loss of holiday celebrations can be difficult. One thing I have learned to do is focus on the future and the goals I have set for the new year.
All the best in 2013!